Fascinating, arty and influential. That’s what fashion is to me. I love fashion. I love the process of creating clothes, the art and ideas of minds behind it. As Eva Kruse, the founder of the Sustainable Fashion Summit said: “It makes us love, desire, excite, reject and change. Over and over again.” It’s with us every day and forms a huge, inseparable part of our every day lives. Daily, we wear clothes. They have impact not only on us, how we feel in them or what statement we make, but also on our planet. This impact defines the future of fashion.
That’s why sustainability and fashion are two words which must go together. It’s also the reason why they were discussed earlier this month at the world’s largest event on ethics in this industry in Copenhagen. When I heard of it, I knew I can’t miss it.
As Julie Gilhart, a Fashion Consultant, said at the summit “The reason we’re all here, is that the world is in an environmental crisis. And it’s not just the world’s crisis, it’s a fashion crisis. The world we know is breaking down and we have to find a solution.” It’s beyond doubt, that the world is facing serious climate change, and other issues which affect the planet, both human and animal life. The global fashion industry has great impact, not only on our environment, but also on millions of people working in this industry. Recently, a documentary called The True Cost was made to capture the impact of fast fashion, and I recommend you to watch it.
“The world is in an environmental crisis. And it’s not just the world’s crisis, it’s a fashion crisis.”
Now you might wonder, how is this summit going to help? What is it actually? To its founder, Eva Kruse, it’s not just an event, it’s a movement. She believes that with a massive influence that fashion industry has, comes a huge responsibility to create new business models and transform the industry towards greater sustainability:
“Concepts like circular economy, recycling, reuse, new materials, longevity and lasting quality are among the innovative drivers for new business models that can lead to innovation and stronger businesses while also minimising the impact on people and our planet,” says Kruse.
The event went on all day and hosted 1200 participants from 52 different countries. It was kicked off by speech of HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark who as a patron of this event linked the fashion industry’s influence to a cause she most cares about – gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The opening speech was followed by talks starting from influencing politicians to the most established names in the industry such as H&M, Nike, Patagonia and Selfridges. They all took part in this event to bring ideas together and inspire businesses and innovators who came to Copenhagen to seek answers for THE question of our time: “How to make fashion less toxic for the planet?”
What? Is fashion really toxic? No matter how much me and you love it, unfortunately it really is. Second after agriculture, fashion is the most polluting industry in the world. The amount of water it uses is hard to believe, dirty water full of toxic chemicals goes into rivers and soil, and harmful pesticides and greenhouse gasses are not doing any good either.
Now you are probably thinking what I thought when I first heard this, sitting in a press section of this summit. Completely stunned, shocked and feeling powerless. Does this mean we should not buy new, cool clothes anymore? No, it doesn’t.
However, it has to be the two of us who change something. During the summit, the main emphasize was on the great push towards businesses and brands to find new, innovative ways how to produce clothes.
As Hanna Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer of Nike said, “What we must do is innovation and collaboration on an unprecedented scale. We need to unleash the designers, discover new methods. Less bad is not good enough. Materials matter most, we obsess about them. That’s why we need to set an aggressive target to ourselves and approach new materials. Imagine that we could create materials which don’t ruin the earth, what if we develop materials which are recyclable and renewable?” Hannah also managed to prove, that Nike is really serious about this. “Today, 71% of Nike apparel contains recycled material. We turn the old shoes into basketball courts.”
“What we must do is innovation and collaboration on an unprecedented scale. That’s why we need to set an aggressive target to ourselves and approach new materials. Imagine that we could create materials which don’t ruin the earth, what if we develop materials which are recyclable and renewable?”
Rick Ridgeway, Vice-president of Public Engagement of Patagonia, a sustainable sports clothing company is not only an inspiration but also a proof to everyone that everything is possible. Patagonia produces clothing from purely organic sources. Moreover, they have a “worn wear programme,” – meaning that you can give them your worn clothes and they’ll be fixed and returned to you. In case you wouldn’t want to wear them anymore, they will place them in one of their street pop up stores and sell them to other people.
All this is impressive and I only hope this summit inspired designers, other creatives and business makers to change things. It still wasn’t clear to me though, what can I do? What can YOU do?
I suppose being a conscious consumer would do. It’s been around a year now since I finally started being more conscious about what I buy. I choose quality over quantity. Choosing sustainable brands is an option, as far as your budget allows, as these brands are often unfortunately pretty expensive. The more affordable way is thrifting, which I totally fell in love with – and not only for clothes but I am obsessed by all these cool vintage pieces you can get in thrift shops! Often, they are so much cheaper and a lot more unique. My favourite thrift shops in Odense are definitely Danish Red Cross shops, also because I know that the money from my purchase go for a good cause. Building a minimalistic and timeless closet is another way to go. I don’t follow trends, I just go with my own style.
Carry a fabric bag when you go shopping. Not only food shopping, but also clothes shopping! Another way to be more sustainable is to use products which will minimise your waste and which are made of recyclable materials. The organisers of the summit showed us how this could be done. Look at these gorgeous handmade bamboo bottles!
Try to buy products you know what they’re made from. Products, which are ecological. Buy locally.
I could talk about this on and on, but this article will be so exhausting and long. If you would like me to talk more about this topic, about what I do daily to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable in terms of fashion, let me know in the comments section below!
Last, two years ago, Eva Kruse gave a TED talk, where she in a really simple, and approachable way explained what every one of us could do. To see what options you have in terms of buying things but also taking care of them and getting rid of them, check it out here:
Photos by CPH Fashion Summit 2016